A Reflection on Sandy

New York in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Sandy, such a benign, almost girly name for such a powerful storm. And yet, in downtown Manhattan, where I live, Sandy had a most powerful effect on thousands of lives. Some rallied together in true community to cope with the aftereffects. In my apartment building, neighbors sought the warmth and companionship of building staff and other tenants. They lingered in the lobby, avoiding the darkness of the stairwells and hallways and the solitude of their apartments. Others fled to friends and families in other towns, neighborhoods or boroughs.  Some found hotel rooms in other less electrically-challenged neighborhoods. Neighbors checked on one another to assure that nobody was trapped or abandoned. These are the good, positive and resourceful stories.

But, what of the fear, the fear of those alone, needing physical, mental or emotional help? Did they get what they needed? And will there be continuing resources for them?

One of the most striking aspects of this disaster for me was the disparity between the haves and the have-nots. In this case the haves were the uptowners, those flooding the streets above 34th Street, as water flooded the streets downtown. These are the people in the bars, coffee shops, and department stores. People shopping and hanging out, seemingly oblivious to the suffering of others in the  nearby areas. So near and yet so far. Downtown, no lights, streetlights, food or water. Uptown, city life at its usual frantic pace. How can this be?

And, what of the feelings evoked in those who experienced this storm? What of the memories of traumas past? Each of us has our own set of memories, not only  from this lifetime, but from ancestral trauma or (if you believe) past lives. This current crisis could then precipitate a PTSD response. And so, continuing care and attention is needed to ameliorate the damage of these challenging situations.

My advice in times like these: do not hesitate to reach out for the help that you need. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness but the act of a true hero in life. One who shows up and takes care of him- or herself is one who makes the most of their gift of life. One who takes care of oneself can then be available for others. In the words of the great Hillel the Elder:

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?” 

Remember to show up today. Take care of yourself, others, and be present, awake and aware. This is the best service that you can do!

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